Art And Culture

‘A Dreamer From Iran’ at Tolosa Int’l Puppet Center

‘A Dreamer From Iran’ at Tolosa Int’l Puppet Center
‘A Dreamer From Iran’ at Tolosa Int’l Puppet Center

Theater director, playwright, puppet maker and stage designer Zahra Sabri, 49, opened an exhibition of her stage puppets at the International Puppet Center in Tolosa, a Spanish town, on Saturday, November 5.

The six-month ‘A Dreamer from Iran’ exhibition showcases puppets used in six plays directed by Sabri, a well known puppetry director, and performed by her group Yas-Tamam.

“There is always this misunderstanding that puppetry is for children and I tried to change this perception when I wrote ‘Eight Moments,’ a play for adults,” ISNA quoted her as saying.

It is one of the plays whose puppets are showcased at Sabri’s exhibit. She adapted the play from eight short stories by unknown writers across the world.

“In 2003, I received a book as a birthday present. It was titled ‘17 Short Stories by 17 Unknown Writers Across the World’. I used the book as the basis of ‘Eight Moments’. The stories told in the play are linked by a character named Gaga.”

The first story is about a child who goes to God, asking, “I’ve heard that I’m to be sent to the world. Who will protect me there?”

 Rumi Inspires Sabri

The puppets are also taken from ‘Parrot’s Feather,’ a play based on 13th century Persian poet Rumi’s story of The Parrot and the Merchant. In the story, an imprisoned parrot feigns death and is thus cast out of the cage by the merchant who owned it. The bird gains its freedom and flies away.

In Sabri’s play, however, a fish tries the same trick but is cast on dry soil where it dies trying to reach the sea.

Another play contributing to the exhibit is ‘Earth and Universe’ that received the Grand Prize from the second edition of Hawler International Theater Festival 2012 in Erbil, Iraq. Here again, Sabri turned to Rumi’s stories, starting from ‘Ney-Nameh’ (Book of Ney), the first chapter of the poet’s famous collection Masnavi, and ending with ‘Moses and the Shepherd’ where Moses overhears a shepherd’s naïve prayers and then rebukes his presumptions.

A peacock that plucks its own feathers, a cow on a lonely island and a monk who is visited by Satan are among the other episodes of Earth and Universe.

There are puppets in the exhibit which have come from ‘The House of Bernard Alba’. It is Yas-Tamam’s production of Federico Garcia Lorca’s play, about a manipulative widow and her five daughters living an isolated life against an impending backdrop of fascism. The play was performed in Iran, Spain, France and Lebanon.

The puppets used in the play are designed in an arresting visual style “to create a nightmarish world of oppression and brainwashed conformity,” according to theater magazine Exeunt (

 Anti-War Plays

‘Count to One’, an anti-war play adapted from quatrains of Khayyam, yielded a series of earthen puppets featured at the display. Some of them are created on the stage. “There are three soldiers in the play, who refrain from destroying a city,” Sabri said of the play. “Khayyam talks about the present moment and love.”

“The play doesn’t have any special décor; earth and water are all the materials used, added by a few potters’ wheels.”

‘Naneh Delavar (courageous mother) and Her Children’ is another anti-war play contributing to the puppet exhibition. It is an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s play ‘Mother Courage’ written in an attempt to counter the rise of fascism and Nazism. Sabri’s take on Brecht’s play features ingenious puppetry, set design and costume.

The opening ceremony of ‘A Dreamer from Iran’ was attended by Mehdi Shafiee, director general of Iran’s Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry’s Department of Performing Arts, IRNA reported.

Iran’s cultural counselor in Spain Alireza Esmaili, Mayor of Tolouse Olatz Peon Ormazabal, and Mehrdad Rayani, director of international affairs at the  Department of Performing Arts were also present.

Peon Ormazabal was enthusiastic about organizing similar events in the future. Shafiee expressed hope that the cultural and artistic interactions between Iran and Spain would be expanded.

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